10 Years... 10 Stories

An interview project celebrating the tenth anniversary of Community MusicWorks.

Interviews conducted by:

Fidelia Vasquez,
Community MusicWorks cellist & board member
and Chloë Kline, Community MusicWorks Fellow

Special thanks to all of our interviewees for sharing their time and their stories, to Liz Hollander for the inspiration to start this project and brainstorming help, and to Liz Cox for her transcription heroics.

Quick Links

Tenth Year Violin

10 Years... 10 Stories

    Josh Rodriguez

    Vanessa Centeno

    Sara Stalnaker

    Karen Romer

    Zeeny & Patrice Wolfe

    Tae Ortiz

    Itza Serrano

    Sebastian Ruth

    Carolina Jimenez

    Jesse Holstein

Jesse Holstein,
Providence String Quartet


Fidelia Vasquez: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?


Jesse Holstein: Well, I'm 32 years old, and I live two blocks from CMW office. I'm originally from Western Massachusetts, and I started playing the violin when I was five, because a girl brought in a violin for show and tell. She was pretty good, I think, so she was getting a lot of attention. I wanted some of that attention! So I said that I had a violin as well, that had been passed down from generation to generation. And from that I started taking violin lessons. My career started with a lie!

FV: How did you first get involved in Community MusicWorks?


JH: I played in an orchestra called Boston Philharmonic. And there was this guy in the viola section, Sebastian, who I sort of knew through Minna, a friend from Oberlin. Sebastian and I seemed to be on a very similar vibe during concerts, we'd always be sort of grooving together. I also knew Heath pretty well, so I knew a little bit about this program. So in the spring of 2001, when Sebastian and Minna got the idea to hire a fulltime quartet, I was approached and asked if I would like to apply.

FV: When did you realize CMW was important to you?


JH: I'd like to say as soon as I got here. But it actually was a little bit of an adjustment. I wasn't used to being relied on this heavily. It took me a year or so to really get used to the rhythm of things here. But pretty quickly I realized that this encapsulated a lot of what I wanted to do with music, and that it was a unique thing that was going on. I believe in it very passionately now.


FV: How do you think Community MusicWorks has changed your life?

JH: I tell a lot of people that (and this isn't just hyperbole) that it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. Before I came here, I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. I thought I was going to play in an orchestra or something, but this really gave my life direction and a sense of purpose. I felt that I was doing something that not only was helping other people and families but also really helping myself.

FV: Do you feel like the teaching here has changed the way you perform?


JH: Yes, I do. Well, maybe not the way I perform but the way I think of music. I really like making a connection with the audience and I've realized how universal music is. Whether you know classical music really well or you don't, if you give someone a context to listen to something with, they can make a connection with that piece and really be changed by it. That's why I'm so invested in the concert talks and in trying to connect with the audience, whether they're little kids or adults or a community concert.

FV: What would you say has been your most proudest moment at CMW?

JH: When a student can do something they couldn't do a few months ago. I now have some kids that are starting to shape phrases and really play dynamics. That feels great! There are also some really memorable concerts that I feel good about. One that stands out was last year when we played the Bach Art of the Fugue . I felt really connected to the quartet when we were playing, and also my mind was clear and I could just respond and react. I think we were feeling really comfortable with each other, and we were really able to move and pull back and take time. That happens a lot with these guys because we're getting to the point where we're getting to know each other pretty well.

FV: You've mentioned both lessons and concerts. How do you balance teaching and performing in this program?


JH: Trying to teach and perform at a high level can sometimes feel overwhelming but I think I've found a pretty good rhythm. I enjoy practicing; it's relaxing and centering for me, and I take a lot of pride in trying to be ready for all of my concerts. So, after teaching I try to put in a couple of hours, and I also try to practice in the morning. When I'm teaching I just try to be there in that moment and not think about “Oh gosh, I really should have practiced more this morning.” And if I'm practicing, and if maybe I had bad lesson, or didn't handle a situation the way I would like, I try to let go. I really just try to be mindful of where I am, whether I'm performing or teaching. I think there's a real art in both, and I think I can always learn more—how to be more patient and more present for the students, and also how be a better violinist.

FV: What was your funniest moment in CMW?

JH: There's been many, many funny moments but I'll tell you one that I'm thinking about just right now. I thought it was hilarious. I get so accustomed to dialing certain people's phone numbers that I know a lot of the families phone numbers by heart. It's almost like a reflex. Now, the other day, I thought I was calling Sebastian. We were going to meet after a concert and go out for Apsara food. So I dialed the number, and someone answered, and I said, “Oh, Sebas, I'm going to be a little late, but if you wouldn't mind just putting in an order for the tomyun soup and some nimchow, and the stir-fried eggplant….” Well, I went on for a while. Then I hear, “Jesse. It's Alberto. Elizabeth's brother.” I had dialed Elizabeth Perez's house! Her brother picked up and he just let me talk. Humor is a big part of CMW. That's one of the things I really like about the program. We take the mission very seriously but we also like to enjoy the lighter side of life as well.

FV: How have the people in CMW been important in your life?

JH: Very, very important. I really feel that I'm part of many families here. I've been invited over to people's home for meals and to hang out with some of the families. The relationships with the families are a really important part of this program, and something I would like to continue to develop. Not just the kids, but getting to know the parents and letting them know that this is a program for them as well. Even though they're not taking the lessons, they can get a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing their child is in a safe place, learning something that they can really take with them forever. The tools and the confidence that they develop here are going to be with them for a long time.

FV: How is Phase II is different now from when it first started, how do you think it's changed?


JH: I think when we first started it, it was just an experiment and an idea, and there was no formula to it. We would try different things each time. Sometimes we would sit down and watch a movie, or go on a hike, or go see a violin shop. I guess there's always been food. That's the one thing that has been constant! But now there seems to be a good rhythm to things. The chamber music is a big part of it. That's an awesome change. Also the discussions are going a lot deeper.

FV: How do you think Phase II has changed you?


JH: I've learned a lot about how to let go. I'm not a very inhibited person, but in some areas I do get self-conscious and nervous. I really am amazed at the courage the Phase II students have to try different things and to really express their viewpoints, even sometimes viewpoints that I might not agree with, but they feel safe to do that. I think it's made me believe in this program even more. There are some extraordinary things happening here, because of the safeness of the space and the trust between the students and between the students and the staff. It really demonstrates how powerful this program is. 


About Us | Programs | Calendar | Media | Profiles | Get Involved | Contact Us | Home